Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Para Kay Ama (Relyn Tan, 2012)

My favorite non-Cinemalaya short of 2012, Para Kay Ama, is now my fave Cinemalaya short feature this year.

A welcome addition to the scant Chinoy filmography, the short film is a one-shot, marvelous look at a secret unveiled during the wake of a Chinese patriarch. 

Che Ramos is amazing as Hannah, a young Tsinoy (Chinese Filipino) who've just learned that she has a step-brother. In a burst of pure acting brilliance, she handles her character's roller-coaster ride of emotions with ease.

The audience gets a glimpse into the challenges faced by female Tsinoys. How they are treated as inferior to males. A Chinese businessman, despite knowing the answer, asks whether her step-brother is the first born child. He rues the fact that Hannah is the older one and that she doesn't speak Chinese. But, what riles him most is Hannah inherits all of her late father's wealth.

The beauteous young lady director, Relyn Angkuan Tan, dedicated the film to her grandmother and her father. The title Para Kay Ama translates as For Grandmother and, also as, For Father. The director also acknowledged the film's nods to Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria, Ded na si Lolo, Crying Ladies, and the Mano Po series.

Catch the short film at the gala showing of Cinemalaya 2013's Shorts A program on July 30, 2013 at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. You may discover a secret or two during your viewing. Is that really a one-shot, one-cut film?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lola (Brillante Mendoza, 2009)

Right after winning the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, Brillante Mendoza went home and started work on this film for 10 straight days. He wanted to capture the rainy season and the floods in Malabon. The movie ended up being a 'surprise' entry at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, where it received good reviews from critics.

Lola is a daunting, demanding, but ultimately rewarding film. If Mendoza kept you on the edge of your seat with the suspense-chiller Kinatay, then this time around, Mendoza will make you teary-eyed throughout the heavy drama movie.

The mood is drab, funereal, and quite depressing really. The heartbreaking plight of the elderly, prisoners, and impoverished people is too much to take. Think in terms of the gloomy aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy. The worst flooding in the Philippines since 1967 resulted in the deaths of hundreds and the displacement of thousands of families. But, amidst all the dreariness, the extraordinary resilience of the Filipinos shines through. Bayanihan spirit will help our countrymen get through this crisis.

Lola highlights that type of resiliency and indefatigable spirit inherent in Filipinos. The Mendoza film features two grandmothers who've probably encountered and weathered all types of crisis and troubles. The two senior citizens are linked together by a homicide-robbery case. Lola Josefa ‘Sepa’ Quimpo (Anita Linda) lost her grandson in the incident. Lola Purificacion Burgos’ grandson Mateo is the suspect in the killing.

Adversity brings out the best in Filipinos. The elders (brilliantly acted by veteran actresses Linda and Rustica Carpio) will do anything for their family members. Lola Sepa mortgages her pension card in order to raise money for the funeral service. On the other hand, Lola Puring pawns television, and mortgages her property to amass funds for a possible amicable settlement. However, extreme crisis also brings out the worst in the Filipino. Lola Puring resorts to shortchanging buyers of vegetables to raise precious money.

The funeral procession on the inundated streets of Malabon is destined to be an iconic Mendoza moment. We see Lola Sepa, family members, loved ones, friends, and neighbors riding in bancas as they serenely go to the cemetery. No one is crying. It is as if their tear ducts have all dried up.

There is also a beautiful, night-time shot of a shimmering, gleaming flooded street that bodes hope and redemption. The ending shows the two grandmothers, along with their loved ones, coming out of the Hall of Justice. They have overcome the latest problem that life has thrown at them. Drawing strength from family members, they are ready once more to wade through life’s joys and sorrows.

*original online posting in 2009

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kinatay (Brillante Mendoza, 2009)

This is no ordinary Brillante Ma. Mendoza film.

Vividly colored snippets of people doing their routine morning chores. Friendly game of basketball among the young men. Tween girls running an errand. A cook cutting a chicken into pieces. Happy portrait of a couple with their cute boy.

Is this really a Brillante Mendoza film?

Employing an Alfred Hitchcock's trick in Rear Window, the Mendoza film lures the audience into the blissful, carefree world of Peping (Coco Martin), a soon-to-be-married criminology student. The beautifully-lensed daytime segment takes a voyeuristic peek into the activities of Peping's neighbors. This segment will soon segue into a cheesy interlude onboard a jeepney and ultimately culminating in the joyous wedding celebrations. However, the daytime segment ends with an ominous shot of a red-tinged sunset.

Night falls and we see Peping running an errand for a criminal syndicate headed by rogue cops. His friend Abyong (Jhong Hilario) later convinces him to join an operation. They catch up with their colleagues inside a family van. A prostitute named Madonna (Ma. Isabel Lopez) becomes the last rider to hop onboard.

What follows is a Stygian journey into the pits of hell. Peping didn't expect anyone to receive any kind of beating. When the gang members start gagging Madonna and tying up her hands, Peping helplessly looks on. Sarge (John Regala) slaps and kicks the prostitute. The muffled cries of Madonna eventually die down. A shocked Peping can't believe the events transpiring before him. Even if he wanted to leave, he knows he can't get pass through the tight-guarding Cerberus-like trio near the van's door.

Scriptwriter Armando 'Bing' Lao provides a solid depiction of Peping's slow descent into the heart of darkness. After the group unloads the unconscious prostitute in a house, Peping contemplates on ditching the group. Escape is not an easy option, though. The group members are mostly cops-turned-hardened criminals and he is just a student. They won't hesitate to kill him. The crooked police captain (Julio Diaz) drags Peping further down the abyss by giving him a gun. The lure of power clouds the student's judgment. Soon, he is fetching sacks that will be used in the disposal of Madonna's chopped-up body parts.

The claustrophobic trip back to the city is equally hellish for Peping. Madonna fails to pay the required money and is soon thrown, limb by limb, out of the vehicle. The stench of the rape-slay crime overcomes Peping. He vomits and realizes that he has reneged on his school oath. He can never get back the much-desired integrity.

This is no ordinary Brillante Mendoza film.

Kinatay is the most terrifying film made by Mendoza so far. To horror fans out there who have never seen a movie by Brillante Mendoza, now is the right time to savor the brilliance of a Mendoza film. The suspense ratchets up to the roof since the start of the Stygian journey. The film's chills quotient never flags down. It maintains its feverish pitch until the end.

The most chilling sight is seeing a pot-bellied man washing bits of skin and blood off his body. The man, who will later don a long-sleeved white polo, is Sarge, a police officer. Criminal cops? Scary stuff. The scarier part is they do really exist. As the movie of ex-Dagdag National Artist Carlo J. Caparas would say, 'God have mercy on us!'

*original online posting in 2009

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kubrador (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2006)

Amelita collects bets for an illegal numbers game called jueteng. She walks around the neighborhood and cajoles people to put in their bets. She knows it is wrong but this is the only way that she can bring food for her family.

Actress Gina Pareno nabbed the lion’s share of the best actress trophies from award-winning giving bodies this in 2007. She portrayed Amy, a bookie shackled to the illegal numbers game. She is one of the millions of people dependent on jueteng. They are in local parlance called ‘anak ng jueteng.’

Amy earns 15% of her daily jueteng collections. She invests part of her earnings to stock up goods for her sari-sari store. Her husband is the one manning the store while she makes her rounds.

Every day she prays that she won’t be caught by the police. Bail is set at 10,000 pesos. Her boss usually pays for her bail each time she gets in trouble. These acts of kindness put her at the mercy of the boss.

Numerology plays an important part of Amy’s work. She helps her clients choose numbers base on their experiences. Bad luck means number 13.

A death in the neighborhood puts Amy’s networking skills into action. A priest contacts her to collect donations for the burial expenses of the surviving family. She remembers her son who died serving in the military.

The film showed frequent appearances of the spirit of the dead son. He is shown massaging the head of his tired mother. He guides her when she gets lost in the labyrinthine alleyways of her neighborhood. He saves her from a bullet.

This film is a solid work by the director. It deserves all the acclaim it received from international film festivals and local critics. It is a courageous film showing the wide reach of jueteng.

Major government officials and the church are portrayed as major benefactors of jueteng. A scene from the film showed a jueteng cashier putting thousands of pesos to envelopes addressed to a certain J.V. and a certain Fr. The letters J.V. can mean ‘Jose Velarde,' alleged alias of the deposed President Joseph Estrada. Meanwhile, ‘Fr.’ stands for church officials who take dirty money and keep quiet about it.

Kubrador is a prime example of ‘real time’ films espoused by scriptwriter Joel Jover and his mentor Bing Lao. A ‘real time’ film puts emphasis on a place. The excellent camerawork traced the paths taken by Amy in her daily rounds. The film showed the neighborhood that fosters illegal gambling such as jueteng. The narrow alleyways seem to imprison the bookies. The only way a debt-ridden bookie can get out of the gambling-infested place is through death.

* original online posting in 2007

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Serbis (Brillante Mendoza, 2008)

Serbis competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Critics were divided over the merits of the film by Brillante Ma. Mendoza. When it crossed over the Atlantic, it was met with mostly positive reviews by American critics. It is still one of the highest-rated Filipino films tracked at the Metacritic site along with Graceland.

I have seen two versions of Serbis but I still haven’t seen the Cannes Film Festival version that deeply polarized critics. The indieSine version is a heavily-cut R-18 film with valuable English subtitles. The censored scenes were re-integrated back for the UP Cine Adarna run of the film. Alas, the so-called Director’s Cut version did not have English subtitles making it difficult for viewers to take a grasp of Ilocano and Kapampangan dialogues. And apparently, it was not the definitive version. 

The French DVD version of the film is probably the ultimate version. It seems to feature Coco Martin’s frontal nudity scene, which was not shown (censored?) at the initial UP Cine Adarna run.

Frontal nudity and graphic sex scenes abound in this movie. The initial scene shows a naked nubile girl preening in front of a mirror. She repeatedly whispers the words ‘I love you,’ which are barely heard amidst the noise of motor vehicles outside the room. Eighty-eight minutes later, I was muttering ‘I love this film.’

With Serbis, scriptwriter Armando Lao shows why he is the master and originator of the ‘real-time’ mode, which emphasizes the power of the place. In this film, Lao deals with the lives of denizens in a decaying movie house that features soft-porn flicks. Nanay Flor (played magnificently by Gina Pareño), matriarch of the family running the crumbling business, is deeply involved in a case against her philandering husband. Her daughter Nayda (Jaclyn Jose) gets embroiled in an incestuous relationship. Male prostitutes loiter in the lobby. At the end of the film, a movie house employee named Alan (Coco Martin) had enough of filthy things and promptly leaves the place.

A major strength of the film is its realism. The audience squirms as Alan cleans the clogged toilets and his buttock. These and other scenes of squalor are probably alien to foreign critics who lambasted the film. But, there are scenes that should have been excluded or minimized. Mendoza sometimes belittles the intelligence of his audience. A case in point is a scene showing a vehicle clearly going the wrong way. Mendoza finds it necessary to supply a close-up shot of the ‘One-way’ sign.

The trademark kinetic camerawork of a ‘real-time’ film is also here. The camera follows Nayda as she traverses the stairways and dark hallways of the movie theater. After opening the door of the projection room, she seems to be taken aback by what she sees. The scene then cuts to a shot of a hunky projectionist playing with himself.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board initially gave the film an X rating. In response to the board’s action, Brillante Mendoza and Bing Lao inexplicably sought a compromise and allowed the snipping of some scenes in order for the film to be shown in a mall in 2008. That was a grave mistake committed by the duo. What does it profit filmmakers if they gain a wider audience but loses their creative vision and soul?

Mendoza learned his lesson and vowed not to show future films in an edited version.

*original online posting in 2009

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (Eddie Romero, Metro Manila Film Festival 1976)

Kulas is a slow-witted young man. People take advantage of his naivety. He lost his house, wealth, and ladylove. But, one thing they cannot take away from him is his Filipino identity.

Who/what is a Filipino? The film’s greatness lies in its exploration of the Filipino question.

Kulas gets confounded with the different definitions of ‘Filipino.’ It originally referred to a person of pure Spanish descent born in the country. However, the term evolved. A travelling Chinese merchant born in the country is also called a Filipino. Being born in the country seems to be the main criteria.

Kind-hearted and gullible Kulas searches out for a boy named Bindoy and reunites the kid with his grateful father, a friar named Padre Gil Corcuera. The latter endows Kulas with a house and a huge sum of money. He gets transformed from a lowly indio into a rich senyorito. He asks a Visayan lawyer named Tibor if he can rightly be called Filipino. Tibor says that in order to be called a Filipino, one must be a worthy and valuable person.

The young man finds a worthy cause to live for. He is disgusted at so-called Filipinos collaborating with the enemies, the Spaniards and the Americans. Just like Jose Rizal, who was heartbroken, he abandons his love for Diding and shifts his love to his country.
Kulas, in the end, realizes that a Filipino is someone who loves or will love the then newly created Filipino nation. It is not enough to be born in the country in order to be called a Filipino. One should also love his country through actions. Kulas approaches a group of orphans and reminds them to call themselves Filipinos. He then hikes off to join the insurrectos.

This great film started strong, puttered somewhat in the middle, and then bounced back in the last act. The script by Romero and Roy Iglesias oozed with spot-on humor as seen in Kulas’ transaction with a potential property buyer and his second encounter with a notorious jailbird.

A raw and fresh Christopher de Leon is a joy to watch. He is still decades away from becoming the hammy actor that he is today. His Kulas Ocampo is no different from Forrest Gump. Both characters find themselves caught up in their respective countries’ upheavals. De Leon manages to show his character’s naivety without resorting to stuttering and doing acts of stupidity.

Christopher de Leon : Nicolas ‘Kulas’ Ocampo
Gloria Diaz : Matilde ‘Diding’ Diaz Patron
Leopoldo Salcedo : Fortunato ‘Atong’ Capili
Eddie Garcia : Tibor
Tsing Tong Tsai : Lim
E.A. Rocha : Padre Gil Corcuera
Dranreb Belleza : Bindoy

*original online posting in 2009

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Boses (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil, Cinemalaya 2008)

Boses was one of two last-minute replacements to the list of Cinemalaya finalists in 2008. It became one of the best films of that batch.

Violinist Ariel Basco is still hurting from the death of a protégé and lover. He holes up in a vacant home adjacent to a shelter for young victims of violence. The children are afraid of him and leave him alone. The only person he talks to is his sister who manages the shelter.

His sister constantly reminds the children to respect the privacy of Ariel. One day, the young boys and girls cross the demarcation line and earn the ire of the practicing violinist. He lashes out at the kids. It is this scary scene that newbie Onyok sees.

Onyok is a mute boy rescued from his abusive father. He becomes the target of a bully in the shelter home. He fights back and injures the bully. He then seeks refuge in Ariel’s home.
                                                           Music is the food of love
                                                             -William Shakespeare-

Ariel notices the young boy’s interest in his violin. While Onyok is hiding in a closet, Ariel enumerates the different parts of the violin. He likens them to the parts of a human body. The different body parts, he says, should always be clean. He gets the surprise of his life when he sees the frail and scarred body of Onyok. It turns out that Onyok’s father had the habit of using the boy’s body as an ashtray every time he gets drunk.

The young boy strikes a chord on the parental side of the violinist. His intense interest in playing violin endears him to Ariel. The two slowly play beautiful music together. They emerge better persons as a result of their friendship.

I loved the idea of a mute and frail boy turning an angry young man into a caring person. Violinists attach a device called mute to the violin in order to mellow down the tone when they practice. In this film, the mute Onyok softens up the choleric music of Ariel. The latter becomes more caring and loving. He surprises his sister by giving her a buss on the cheek.

On the other hand, Ariel helps Onyok to regain his ‘voice.’ The young violin whiz is able to communicate and reach out to other people. His music nurtures the seed of love in the heart of his father.

The two leads were surprisingly good. Julian Duque is a real child prodigy and it is a pleasure to see him play and act well. Coke Bolipata gave a fairly good performance. Indie regulars, Cherry Pie Picache and Ricky Davao, provide ample support to the newbies.


Coke Bolipata : Ariel Basco
Julian Duque : Julian 'Onyok' Alimpio
Ricky Davao : Mr Alimpio
Cherry Pie Picache

*original online posting in 2008

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Sisa (Gerardo de Leon, 1951)

Sultry lady Sisa is courted by four young men. One of them marries her and sires two children. Another one takes away the life from her husband. The third one murders one child. The last one brings hope for the remaining child.

The classic film is a revisionist and visually enticing story of Jose Rizal’s character, Sisa. It bears most of the signature shots of de Leon. The first shot is a memorable close-up image of a smiling Sisa enthralled by the singing of Maria Clara. Near the end of the film is an equally memorable shot of a dark shadow cast against the walls of the bell tower.

In between are pieces of de Leon’s masterful mise-en-scene compositions. An excellent example showed a glowing lamp in the foreground with people on the background. Four people filled in the corners of the shot. They speak one after the other in counterclockwise fashion. They were wishing to be enlightened on the dark past of Sisa.

The main theme of the film is enlightenment. Most of the evil deeds in the film were done in dark places. These hideous acts were later revealed in broad daylight or in a room lighted by a glowing lamp.

Scriptwriter Teodorico Santos blended his back story of Sisa with segments from Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Amongst her four suitors, Sisa chooses and marries Peping. A jealous guardia civil named Antonio arrests and imprisons Peping. The latter is kept in a cell full of lepers. When Peping is released, he is no longer the same.

Later in the film, an idealistic young man named Crisostomo Ibarra takes pity on the marginalized couple, a leprous man and a crazed woman. More than any other film, Sisa was probably the main inspiration for Mario O’Hara’s script Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang.

Another spurned suitor, Sakristan Mayor Baldo, takes revenge by bringing trumped-up charges of theft against Sisa’s son, Crispin. He fatally beats up the boy in the bell tower. The boy’s body is then disposed off in a river.

The fourth suitor, Elias, is a faithful admirer of Sisa. He is instrumental in helping Ibarra to evade the vicious authorities. He brings hope to Sisa’s surviving child, Basilio.

Padre Salvi and Donya Consolacion, the inglorious bastards from the book Noli, are also in this film. Padre Salvi is barely seen as the celebrant in Sisa and Peping’s wedding.

Donya Consolacion is in her villainous mode. She utilizes her being the wife of the alferez to break up the party hosted by Ibarra. She hates the fact that she was not invited at all to the party. 

Another scene showed the Donya ordering the household helpers to close the window because she can’t stand the noise from a religious procession outside. She becomes even more furious when she heard Sisa singing. With a whip in hand, she orders Sisa to sing and dance for her. Then, she whips her until the crazed woman escaped from her clutches.

The copy of the film shown at Cine Adarna was not in good condition. The images were chopped in the right and bottom sides. The audio was not clear enough. I had a hard time deciphering the name of Sisa’s husband. I’m not even sure if it is really Peping. It also sounds like Pedring or Peding.  

I’m still thankful that I saw one of the best works of National Artist for Film, Gerardo de Leon. This film was one of the highlights at the UP Diliman run of Cinemalaya 2008. 

Anita Linda : Sisa

*original online posting in 2008

Friday, July 05, 2013

El Vibora (Ishmael Bernal, 1972)

Loosely based on historical figure Artemio Ricarte, El Vibora is a surprisingly good actioner from Ishmael Bernal. It is of the same mold as an FPJ revenge movie. There are lots of solid action scenes and wicked villains.

In F. Sionil Jose’s book Vibora, Ricarte’s place in history was examined. The General-In-Chief of the Philippine Revolutionary Army was a staunch anti-American. He saw how the Americans massacred Filipinos. He can’t stomach the acts of people who turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Americans.

Ricarte refused to pledge allegiance to the Americans, whom he considered the real enemies of the Filipinos. This strong stubbornness to his ideals and excessive love for the Philippines were also tackled in the film although in various forms.

In the film, Vic Vargas portrays Vibora (Viper), a leader of the revolutionary army during the early years of American conquest in the Philippines. He gets into a fight with fellow revolutionists who kowtowed to the Americans. He believes one of them was responsible for the death of his wife.

Vibora goes on a killing spree. Every lawless man he encounters on the road ends up dead in his hands. His tenacity and notoriety convinces the authorities to offer a huge sum of $10,000 for his arrest.

In the end, the identity of the major villain is a big surprise. Just as in the book, the villains have assumed the air of respectability after ‘collaborating’ with the Americans. They ended up powerful and looked upon as decent people. They are not easily identified as evil. But, the sad truth is they are the true villains. They are the real enemies of the Filipinos. They are the ones who raped and brutalized the Philippines.

Bernal was able to keep the film on a frisky pace. The only chink to his solid direction was the explosion of the church. It was obviously a model.

Vic Vargas : Vibora
Boots Anson Roa : Cecilia
Eddie Garcia : Alvaran
Leopoldo Salcedo : Gismundo
Max Alvarado : Gulimbat

*original online posting in 2008

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Salome (Laurice Guillen, 1981)

A sensuous piece of work by Laurice Guillen, this great film pulls you in and sweeps you up in waves upon waves of memorable images.

An image of a woman running through the woods was so good the Cinemalaya 2007 film Tukso also copied it. Salome is wearing a white dress, which contrasted beautifully with the trees. Blood was splattered over her dress. She runs past several people and then stops. In near hysteria, she yells out that she just killed a man.

This influential film then showed different versions of the death of Jimmy, a visiting mining engineer. This unraveling of the truth through various viewpoints was later utilized in the Gawad Urian winner Itanong Mo sa Buwan and Tukso.

On the other hand, Salome owes a huge debt to the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon. The contrasting versions of truth and the dazzling shots of sun piercing through the tree branches were taken from the Japanese film.

Another beautiful image is that of a dancing Salome at the isolated beach. Unknown to her, Jimmy is watching intently. He gets seduced by her gyrations and laughter. The scene recalls the biblical story of the beheading of John the Baptist. King Herod was so enamored with the sensual dance of Salome that he told the lass to ask for anything she wanted. The mother ordered Salome to request for the head of John on a plate. King Herod was left with no choice but to order the killing of John. 

Anong sirena? Sirang-sira na!
 -Aling Tale-
Salome is a woman cursed with seductive power. She is likened to a siren. According to Greek mythology, sirens seduce mariners with their singing. Those unfortunate enough to listen to the songs will be killed in their sleep or starve to death. It is also the same with Salome. Anyone smitten by her charms will be forever at her mercy until death comes.

The most erotic scene in the film showed Jimmy gently pinching the derriere of Salome. I was enthralled by the mermaid stories of Lolo that when the scene came I found it to be extremely sexy.

I love the excellent performance of Gina Alajar, the seductive images of cinematographer Romeo Vitug, the literary allusions of scriptwriter Ricky Lee, and the masterful direction of Guillen.

I’m highly recommending this film that deservedly won the Best Picture Award over Kisapmata at the 1982 Gawad Urian Awards. Yes, you'd read it right. Over Kisapmata.

Gina Alajar : Salome Dungawan
Johnny Delgado : Macario ‘Karyo’ Dungawan
Dennis Roldan : Jimmy
Armida Siguion-Reyna : Aling Tale
Bruno Punzalan : Lolo

*original online posting in 2008

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Genghis Khan (Manuel Conde, 1950)

An engaging, low-budget take on the early years of warrior Temujin, Genghis Khan still holds up pretty well today. Viewing this admirable, entertaining adventure yarn was the best film experience I've had at the Cinemalaya Film Festival 2008.

Manuel Conde’s film was one of the first local films to receive worldwide acclaim. American James Agee, writer of The African Queen, was a foremost proponent. The film was selected to compete for the top awards at the Venice Film Festival. It paved the way for local films to go international.

I adored the early segments of the Conde film. It dealt with a competition involving champions of five warring tribes. Temujin outsmarts his competitors in rolling boulders. He uses chopped wood as leverage for his bigger boulder. He arrives at the finish line way ahead of the others.

In a free-for-all hand combat, Temujin and a taller, stronger foe remain standing. The Mongol warrior cannot knock down his foe despite a barrage of punches. He grabs Temujin and puts him in a head-lock. Temujin tries to wiggle out and notices his foe’s tickling sensitivity. It was just a matter of time before sly Temujin pounces on his rival’s funny bone.

Director Conde mixed excellent sword fights with funny scenes. The marvelous music scoring by Juan Silos Jr and rapid-fire editing enlivened the fantastic deeds and funny antics of Temujin.

A droll segment shows the tribal champion conversing with Lei Hai, a princess spying on him. It works like a charm because of Conde’s comic timing. The hilarious moments concerned Temujin’s reluctance to part with a roasted leg of a lamb. The woman asks for a piece of the lamb. The young man grabs a large chunk. He further divides it into two. He slices it further with his teeth and gives the woman a tiny, wee bit of a morsel. It was so funny that Lamberto Avellana had a similar scene for his adventure film Lapu-Lapu.

Let’s go back to the Conde film. Temujin lays down his head on Lei Hai’s lap but she won’t let him. He angrily sits up and refuses to give a piece of a lamb to the lady. However, the roasted lamb is so mouth-watering that the woman later on allowed Temujin to put his head on her lap. His conquest of the woman is a mere glimpse of his voracious sex drive.

Another memorable scene, a dramatic one this time, had Temujin arriving at his village after escaping from his foes. The area is in disarray and the homes are all burning. This scene captured perfectly the moment when the tribal champion was transformed into an avenging conqueror. It predated the burning homestead scene from John Ford’s 1956 western classic The Searchers. The original Star Wars film also had a similar scene.

Conde was able to make Genghis Khan look like an epic despite budgetary constraints. The small horses, ridiculed by local audiences, gave the film ‘realism’ in the eyes of foreign viewers. The camera angles by Emmanuel Rojas lent the film a broad majestic feel. Adding pomp to the film was the luscious production design by National Artist Carlos Botong Francisco. The grand designs of the tents and gold accessories were shouting to be seen in full color (take a glance at the above color photo). The locations were varied and reflect the long journey of Temujin from a mere warrior to a feared, ruthless ruler. 


The above piece, more or less, was written for another blog in 2008. If my memory serves me right, the film shown then at the Cultural Center of the Philippines was not the American version. I’ve seen the latter version and it eliminates one of my pet peeves about the film.

The physics of the rolling boulders were not right then. The American version got rid of the problem by discarding those footages showing the clumsy bouncing of rocks.

There will be a screening of a restored Genghis Khan this Saturday, July 6, 2013, at UP Film Institute’s Cine Adarna. No matter what version will be shown, the film is a must-see. 

Manuel Conde : Temujin / Genghis Khan
Elvira Reyes : Lei Hai
Darmo Acosta : Targout
Lou Salvador : Burchou